Archive for the ‘civil liberties’ Tag

Thom Stark on Radical Centrism and Plato’s Republic   Leave a comment

When Thom Stark and I finished our conversation last week, I finished with this salvo. Lela

I look forward to exploring how a centrist who believes in the “common betterment of the greatest number of fellow citizens” can reconcile a civil libertarian stance. We’ll come back to it next week.

Thom StarkAgain, I think its probably a propos here to point out that my political views are different than those of William Orwell Steele. On the issue of civil liberties, though, I think his position and mine are pretty closely aligned. What puzzles me is your apparent belief that my more-or-less Utilitarian philosophy is somehow incompatible with impassioned advocacy of civil liberties – because I see them as perfectly complementary.

Recall that I said I believe elected officials in a democracy have a duty to strive for political solutions that provide the greatest benefit for the largest number of their fellow citizens, without thereby infringing on the rights of the minority. In my view, that last bit is every bit as important as the first part. If you can’t come up with a political solution without stepping on the minority’s rights in the process, you haven’t managed to achieve an acceptable solution at all. Of those rights, I hold the most important to be free speech, and preserving that right is of the highest importance to me, personally. That’s not in aid of some vague, selfless crusade, either. As a writer, the freedom to write about whatever I wish is central to my identity. Without the freedom to point out that the Emperor isn’t wearing pants, you, me, and every other aspiring scribbler on the planet is relegated to the status of mere entertainer – a jester in the service of le roi, fit only to lampoon the foibles of his most risible chamberlains, but never, ever to impugn the dignity of the king himself.

Screw that.

I completely agree with that.

The freedom to say what you please – and to act as you please, too, so long as no other person is harmed by your behavior without their explicit, advance permission – is key to what it means to be an American. It’s built into our self-image; a part of our cultural DNA. That’s why I was so apalled at my fellow citizens’ reaction to the 9/11 attacks: it seemed like they were lining up to abandon the Bill of Rights in exchange for the mere illusion of greater personal safety from terrorism. The rise of civil asset forfeiture as a routine butress to civic coffers, granting the NSA and the FBI sweeping exemptions from the Fourth and Fifth Amendments, prosecuting journalists for disclosing classified information, serious, chronic, widespread prosecutorial overreach under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, increasing militarization of civilian police forces, the warrantless use of law enforcement facial recognition and license plate databases, have all exploded since September 11, 2001. But, as the Boston Marathon bombing demonstrated, none of these Constitutional transgressions has done anything to make us safer from terrorism. They have merely added to the climate of fear and oppression in this country, without providing any demonstrable benefit to society as a whole.

DSC01494I also totally agree with that. Here in Alaska we’ve had several federal prosecutions of people whose only “crime” appears to have been venting about the federal government. 

As a radical centrist, I’m convinced we need to roll back these infringements on civil liberties, before we become too accustomed to them. That’s an essential element of preserving the rights of the minority: pushing back against the curtailment of civil liberties, and embracing greater, rather than lesser liberty of speech and action. The Westboro Baptist Church bigots sicken me – but I’m grateful that my nation sees the importance of allowing them to speak, regardless of how hateful their speech is. There’s a saying among the Ancient Internauts: “The proper response to distasteful speech is more speech, not less.” I’m all about that. You don’t defeat a philosophical opponent by forbidding him to talk – you beat him by allowing him all the rope he requires to hang himself in the court of public opinion.

As a Baptist myself, I wince every time the Westboro Baptists do anything. I’m embarrassed as an American and as a Christian by their existence. They are not representative of what Biblical Christians, Baptists or fundamentalists believe. They give all of us a bad name and reflect badly on the God they claim to believe in. What they believe does not have a basis in God.

I assume you’ve read Plato’s Republic? It made me want to take a bath – and it wasn’t so much the staggering conceit of his proposal that “philosopher kings” would somehow magically be wise and benevolent rulers, as it was his complete contempt for civil liberties that made me want to wash off the slime. A police state, with poetry as a capital crime, rigidly-enforced social immobility, and a total lack of regard for human aspiration as a central governing tenant – and that philosopher king governance model – sounded a lot like Soviet socialism to me. I think we both know what a profound failure that experiment was. The thing is, while economic central planning was key to the Soviet collapse, I think the Politburo’s restrictions on social mobility and free speech were at least equally responsible for the fall. Governments are like Tinkerbelle. When the people they supposedly govern stop believing in them, they simply go away.

I try to keep posts in this conversation to 1000 words, so I’m going to break it here and post my response next week. Thom has given me much to think about. Lela

Stay Tuned for Thursday with Thom   Leave a comment

Thom StarkLast week, I got a little chatty on the subject of civil liberties. This week, Thom is going to talk about his philosophy of life.

 

Posted November 20, 2014 by aurorawatcherak in Uncategorized

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Suspect Ones   1 comment

Thanks, Dak, for providing me with this link about how American “nativists” sought to dhimminize German Americans during World War I in a similar fashion to how the government treated Japanese Americans and Aleuts during World War II.

Dak suggests that it might be an understandable reaction to circumstances of the times and I partially agree with him. Human nature is exactly as we became after Adam and Eve disobeyed God. We stink and when we act as flesh-and-blood and violate principles our country was founded on or we say we believe from the Bible, we really shouldn’t be surprised because Adam and Eve, upon learning to discern good from evil, raised a brother-killer. That’s who we human beings are. Evil to the core and we chose to be that way. It is not at all surprising that we distrust those who are not like us and wish to remove them from our presence on any pretense available. That’s who human beings became when we chose to worship ourselves rather than God.

On the other hand, we shouldn’t be. Christians shouldn’t be, anyway. The Bible says Christians are to love our fellow human beings as God loves us, which is far deeper than the brotherly love spawned from mutual agreement. In other words, hating our neighbor is not an option for Christians, but disagreeing with them is. Moving beyond that to the political realm, the United States was founded on the ideal that “all men are created equal endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights” … to self-governance. With rights comes responsibilities. If I truly hold that my neighbor has the right to govern himself, I should not seek to imprison him or take away his property or his natural rights because he isn’t like me. At the very least, he should have to have done something that substantively harms myself or someone else before I can restrict his rights.

I don’t get the right to violate the free speech and association rights of Americans of German descent just because our government was fighting Germany. I don’t get the right to stand quietly by while my government inters Americans of Japanese descent just because we were at war with the country they left to become Americans. I don’t get the right to relocate Aleut Indians from their homes and force them into camps just because — well, we weren’t at war with the Aleuts and the Aleuts didn’t immigrate from anywhere else. They were Americans before non-Natives got here, so I’ve always wondered what our excuse was for how we treated them. Oh, yeah, because they were different from us and the United States government wanted control of the rocks they lived on.

By the way, I used to buy the “well, we were at war and people were afraid” argument until I learned what happened to the Aleuts. The argument didn’t apply to the Aleuts and that brought the argument for the Japanese and the Germans into question as well.

Today, it’s Americans of Middle Eastern descent who are the suspect ones. I’m not saying there are not some American Muslims who are guilty of terrorism. Times Square, the Boston Marathon and 911 are all evidence that would argue against me if I claimed that. But not all are. Some are just as American as I am.

Oh oh! Just as “American” as I am. I’m a Christian first, an Alaskan second and an American third. I advocate for a loosening of the bonds that hold the states in the federal matrix. I want to see the federal government shrink to one-third or less of its current size. There are statists who think those ideas are really dangerous. Might they not advocate for my  internment? Could they not make the case that I’m different and therefore suspect and not worthy of constitutional protection of my civil rights?

There are strong atheist voices in this country who openly advocate for Christians to lose custody of their children and not to be allowed to run for public office, even not to be allowed to vote or work in certain professions because they suspect we don’t agree with how they would structure society and they believe we are working to create a theocracy. Maybe there are a handful of Christians living in America who actually fit that description.

Limited government and Christianity — could they become the new Japanese?

Interning Americans who don’t fit the white Anglo Saxon Episcopalian/Methodist statist mold sounds reasonable to white Anglo Saxon Episcopalians until it’s they’re no longer the majority and then … when they come for you, there will be no one left to protest.

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